When families are forced to spend time together in close proximity at Christmas things often go wrong. People argue and tempers fray. Imagine then, if a Austro-Bavarian Christmas demon attacks your neighbourhood because it has been summoned due to the gloom emanating from your family.
Michael Dougherty directs this 2015 comedy, fantasy, horror film which is destined to live on yearly as a Christmas film for late night viewing. Featuring a great cast and some really authentic horror action this film has been under-valued due to the Christmas film theme it is decorated with. It reminds me of a good old fashioned 80’s and 90’s horror film – think “Gremlins” (1984), “Evil Dead” (1981), and “Tales from the Crypt” (TV series rather than film) – even away from horror, there were times it felt like this was all happening on the same street as “Home Alone” (1990) was unfolding. It was made with a modest budget of $15m and it went on to gross at least an estimated $61.5m.
As well as directing, Dougherty also gets a credit as a writer, alongside Todd Casey & Zach Shields. The use of the anthropomorphic Krampus demon is directly from Austro-Bavarian folklore, which I happened to grow up with as a child so I can vouch that it’s authentic. Krampusnacht, or Krampus night, is a yearly tradition on the 5th of December which celebrates Krampus coming to towns to punish bad children. As well as Krampusnacht, you’ll also find other related traditions, such as Krampuslauf (Krampus themed parade) and Krampuskarten (Krampus cards, much like Christmas cards). If Santa Claus (or Saint Nicholas, or even Ded Moroz) is the embodiment of good and joy at Christmas, then Krampus is the yang to the ying – Krampus is there to strike fear into those who have been bad and punish them for it. There are variations in how extreme Krampus is in different countries and regions; while he strikes fear in some place, in others (like Saltzburg, Austria) he tends to be more of a comical mischief demon.
I expected this film to be a B-movie ‘bad but good‘ film which was entertaining enough for me to like it – this surpassed that and I actually loved this film! The action was great, the practical effects were top notch, the CGI worked really well, the plot and script were convincing too. While labelled as a horror film, you don’t get the cliché horror that you’d see in modern films, no overuse of fake blood and gore, no over the top R-rated violence and language, no scares just for the sake of making the audience jump. Instead this is a well crafted family horror (if there is such a film) – something I’d be happy watching with my retired parents, or with some of my older nephews. It’s actually a refreshing change to see this level of care applied to a film. Admittedly, this might not make everyone as happy as it did me. For me this really did feel like a family horror film with all the heart and messages of a good Christmas film too.
I’m giving this film 8 out of 10. I am more than positive that this will be watched every Christmas hence forth. Enjoy!